ADULTING IN THE 21ST CENTURY
August 13, 2020
As a 31-year-old single male living in Chicago, I hear the term “adulting” frequently thrown around in my circle of friends. A relatively new term, adulting is used to describe those mundane-but-necessary tasks such as the grocery shopping and laundry we must accomplish. As responsibilities and lifestyle changes have reshaped adulthood, brands have also adapted to accommodate evolving consumer needs. While Millennials often receive blame over what we’ve destroyed such as doorbells and napkins, we are also partly responsible for creating a new consumer landscape, too.
SMALLER ABODES LEAD TO NEW AND INVENTIVE WAYS TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR LIVING SPACE
The increased cost of living for city-dwelling Millennials means sacrificing space in favor of location. Consequently, many young consumers live in cramped apartments, small houses, and co-living spaces. To meet these changes in accommodations, companies such as GE have expanded their product lines by creating smaller urban-sized appliances in lieu of oversized ovens or refrigerators that take up desired kitchen space. By diversifying their offerings, brands can provide consumers with space-saving solutions that optimize their homes while streamlining their hectic lifestyles. For example, the Instant Pot combines the functions of a slow cooker, pressure cooker, and rice cooker into one small appliance that is easily portable and storage-friendly.
In terms of its brand positioning, the Instant Pot aligns with younger consumers’ interest in preparing healthier meals and saving money on takeout—without alienating other demographics’ needs for convenient and easy cooking.
RENTING IS A FLEXIBLE AND ECO-FRIENDLY ALTERNATIVE TO TRADITIONAL OWNERSHIP
If adulting is all about finding those “life hacks,” deciding to take an Uber or Lyft instead of owning a car is an obvious choice. Because flexibility is important to younger consumers, renting is an attractive concept to Millennials who are not willing (or able) to tie themselves down with car and mortgage payments. Home décor companies are also catching on to this trend and have expanded the scope of the renting experience. For example, the brand Feather sources furniture from West Elm, so consumers can rent stylish and affordable options even if they move around often or aren’t ready to make a big purchase. While renting furniture is not a new concept (Rent-A-Center has been around for 60 years), Feather’s subscription-based model offers alternative options to ownership such as renting, swapping, or buying out gently used furniture. This model not only offers flexibility but also provides an eco-friendly approach that doesn’t rely on buying and then disposing cheaply-made furniture.
COMPANIES WANT TO MAKE KEEPING UP WITH LIFE AS EASY
We’ve all been there. You’ve just left work after an eight-hour workday and emails continue to pile up on your phone when, out of nowhere, that friend you haven’t seen in months texts you and asks you to dinner. Meanwhile, you’re behind on shopping and housework. What’s more important: adulting or enjoying life? Personally, I’d go to dinner with friends over adulting, which inevitably causes stress over the tasks I didn’t choose to do. According to the Mintel study “Marketing to Millennials,” published in 2019, 40% of US Millennials cite keeping up with everything they have to do as a main stressor. As a result, service brands have popped up to help alleviate this stress. That being said, the brands that can position themselves as services (and not just products) are sure to win with consumers. For example, the “life without laundry” brand Laundrygo provides a convenient way for adults to do their laundry by placing it inside a secured collection box outside of their homes. Then, it is picked up, cleaned, and returned within 24 hours. Laundrygo estimates that by using their service, you’ll be able to save 144 hours a year, which can go towards catching up with friends and the other endless tasks on adulting to-do lists.
What’s Stressing You Out?
“Economic circumstances have left the Millennial generation with less wealth than older generations at this age. As a result, many millennials are plagued with financial concerns. Saving often takes a backseat to paying off debt, leaving them worried about their retirement.”
Mintel, “Marketing to Millennials-US”, June 2019
YOU NO LONGER NEED TO STEP INSIDE A GROCERY STORE TO PLAN DINNER
Back to the previous scenario. Let’s imagine you made the very adult decision to decline that friend’s invitation to dinner. If you had the foresight to plan ahead, you could take advantage of Amazon Fresh, a free 2-hour grocery delivery, and have everything delivered to your home as you get home from work. The Cincinnati-based grocer Kroger is taking it a step further and has launched a pilot program in Arizona that delivers groceries with autonomous vehicles developed by the tech start-up Nuro. This launch was so successful that after the seven-month pilot program ended, Kroger brought a similar program to Houston and has plans to expand nationwide. Having your groceries efficiently delivered to your doorstep with driverless cars is the latest trend in the everchanging and competitive battle for your grocery dollars.
HEALTH-FOCUSED SNACKING CONTINUES TO DISRUPT
With the growth of self-checkout machines and online shopping, our relationship with traditional snacks and candy bars has also changed. That’s not to say we don’t snack anymore, but we do snack differently. Nielsen reports that from 2013-2016, all individual snacking categories have seen sales increases, with the biggest uptick in sales coming from snacks that tout specific health claims. This category includes all sorts of snacks like jerky, nuts/seeds, and individual bars (all health, meal replacement, performance, weight management, and cereal/granola bars). For many adults with chaotic schedules, on-the-go snacking is a big part of their lives. It keeps them going until they have enough time to sit down for a meal, and for some, it may even replace a meal.
NEW BRANDS CHALLENGE LEGACY BRANDS
If you’ve ever spent any time in a small town, you’ve probably eaten at a charming no-frills diner before. Friendly staff members, large menus containing a wide range of options, and those retro mini-jukeboxes at the end of your booth were all likely part of your diner experience. The other item that was likely at your table was a bottle of Heinz ketchup. A staple in restaurants and homes everywhere, it was the only ketchup you would ever find and you didn’t think twice about it. That simply isn’t the case anymore with the emergence of brands like Annie’s, Sir Kensington’s, and private label brands stealing market share away from Heinz due to their digital presence. Millennials do not want to buy from companies: they want to buy from brands that connect with them. When you spend a few minutes on Sir Kensington’s website, the playful and inviting tone-of-voice is sure to charm you.
As evidenced by these overarching trends, aging Millennial consumers and the changing landscape of adulthood have impacted how, what, and why we buy. There is a greater premium placed on convenience, ease of use, and individual and environmental health, and unlike the past, there is less of an emphasis on a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Contemporary brands must be able to position themselves as being easily customizable to fit, or fix hectic lifestyles and demonstrate empathy and understanding to the adulting struggle.
Millennials Use Brands to Reinforce Their Image
“Brands that can help consumers understand themselves and express their personal identities have the potential to win loyal Millennial customers. Even further, brands that can sense a cultural shift get ahead of it will be seen as leaders in their perspective spaces.”
Mintel, “Marketing to Millennials-US”, June 2019